Seafood industry putting greater focus on gender equity initiatives

Gender equity and gender equality have moved to the forefront of work in corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts in the seafood industry, according to Seafood and Gender Equality (SAGE) Founder Julie Kuchepatov.

Organizations like SAGE and International Organisation for Women in the Seafood Industry (WSI) are working to raise awareness that the gender equity movement can help seafood firms both improve and strengthen the durability of their company and respond to increasing concerns from the marketplace or investors about a company’s gender values, according to Kuchepatov.

“It’s great to see seafood companies starting to think and engage with issues around equality,” Kuchepatov said. “At a time when younger generations around the globe are taking a strong, unprecedented stand against rampant inequality, unethical practices, and ecologically destructive consumerism, it’s clear that continuing ‘business as usual’ is unsustainable for the long-term economic survival of the seafood industry.”

While increasing gender diversity in a company may start with its corporate ESG efforts, and those efforts tend to focus on increasing gender diversity in C-level positions, there is plenty of evidence to show that diversity is not just an ESG issue, but a core business concern, Kuchepatov said.

“S&P Global found women to be the most underutilized source of growth that could send global market valuations soaring. Acceleration in U.S. GDP growth under increased female labor force participation could add a whopping USD 5.87 trillion [EUR 5.88 trillion] to global market capitalization in 10 years. For every 1 percent of GDP growth, the S&P 500 returns 3.4 percent on average annually. An additional 0.2 percentage point of GDP growth would therefore boost the S&P 500 another 0.7 percent – and could increase U.S. market capitalization by USD 2.87 trillion [EUR 2.88 trillion] in a decade.”

According to Kuchepatov, the issue can have even greater global resonance, as S&P Global research has found each percentage point of U.S. GDP growth has translates into a 4 percent jump in equities in Germany, 6.2 percent in China, and 9.3 percent in South Korea, meaning gains in the United States create a globally significant economic halo effect.

For seafood, the issue of gender equity could have an even greater impact. WSI found that, at a global scale, women represent 45 percent to 50 percent of all seafood workers when considering fishing, fish farming, and seafood-processing activities. Despite this, WSI found women workers are overrepresented in low-skilled, low-paid, low-valued positions and remain mostly absent at the other end of the value chain.

“Empowering women is only one facet of building gender equality,” Kuchepatov said. “In the last two years, people have been evaluating their work-life balance and are increasingly saying ‘no thanks’ to the grind and hustle of the past – a phenomenon called the Great Resignation. The seafood sector is not immune to the Great Resignation and this makes it harder on those workers, including men, who are left to run the business. When companies enact policies that support and address the needs of their most-vulnerable workers, everyone wins, and this includes men.”

Kuchepatov said SAGE hopes to help establish a more-inclusive seafood industry through collaborative initiatives, rather than simply telling the industry what to do. That idea is at the core of SAGE’s program areas: community building and capacity building, communication and awareness-raising, and gender mainstreaming – integrating a gender lens, criteria, and metrics to sustainable and responsible efforts in seafood.

As part of that work, SAGE and WSI are working on a set of “gender-quality dialogues” to develop a process that ensures producers and other seafood industry stakeholders are included in the development of solutions and strategies to create a stronger, more-stable seafood industry. The intent is to create an inclusive community of practice around gender equality, and collectively produce a set of recommendations and best practices based on learnings from the dialogues and efforts from other industries, Kuchepatov said.

“Seafood companies themselves are increasingly making commitments to [diversity, equity, and inclusion], but might need support in implementing them,” Kuchepatov said. “The gender-equality dialogues create the opportunity for action for companies that know the industry faces a ‘gender-inequality’ problem, but might not be sure where to even start to address it.”

Kuchepatov said SAGE is also exploring new engagement platforms and collecting data to highlight the valuable, yet often invisible, contributions of women to the sector. As part of this work, SAGE has launched a survey to better understand the role of women working in a FIP or a project improving fisheries. These efforts will ensure strong representation from women and generate more inclusive engagement opportunities that accurately represent the role of women in seafood, Kuchepatov said.

Photo courtesy of SAGE


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